THE GHOST CRAB, Ocypode quadrata

Ghost crabs live in burrows along the sandy beaches of the Eastern United States. The crabs can reach relatively large sizes of over 50 mm carapace width. They are omnivorous and will eat other crabs, clams, insects, vegetation, and detritus. Feeding activity takes place at night, while burrowing occurs during the day. Burrows show zonation with young crabs found closer to shore, near water. Older crabs tend to burrow farther from water. The large eyes of the crab are sensitive to changes in light intensity. The crab can produce 3 sounds: a rapping of the claw on the substrate, a rasping stridulation of the legs, and a bubbling sound presumably produced from the gill chamber. Combat between males is highly ritualized and rarely ends with contact.

One can sometimes hear the bubbling sound of ghost crabs while tanning at the beach. I've heard their digging activity from as far as 6' (2 m) away!

Photos taken at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. Photos by Martin Fletcher, 1998, All rights reserved, Copyright, 1998. Text by Dr. Jeffrey Shields (excerpted from Williams, 1984).